LEL2017 : How far can you go…

I’ll start with a confession – I enjoy a long cycle, nothing too extreme but a century ride (100 miles) is a perfect chance to get out of dodge and clear my head from all the stresses and strains of modern life.  For the past 3 years it has been my ‘thing’ and whatever the weather, I’ve got out once a month to satisfy my itch.

It was probably on one of these rides that the I first thought seriously about pushing myself far out of my comfort zone and entering LEL.  LEL is the pinnacle of the Audax calendar in the UK. As a 900 mile ride up and down the country its not a something to be undertaken lightly – it’s only put on every 4 years to give organisers and riders a chance to recover and prepare for the next one.

I can’t claim to be a great story writer and if you are after a grand tale of disaster and despair you might be disappointed, but head to Day 4 for a full roller coaster of emotion.

Here is my experience of the first challenge I’ve undertaken when I’ve had absolutely no idea if I would finish or not.

Registration day – Loughton (Outskirts of London)

Having started in Edinburgh a 4 hour train took me down to London.  Arriving in Loughton I started to see my first fellow participants.  The multi-coloured jerseys in various languages looked out of place battling busy Saturday afternoon traffic.

Registration was a painless experience and I soon had my Brevet Card which stay around my neck until I have collected all required stamps.

The lack of a bike spaces on my train, meant I had to pick my bike up from Cliff, a fellow rider who met on the internet and trusted to transport my pride & joy to the start. I met him & my bike at the campsite and being a top bloke he drove me to my hotel, where my only task was fit mudguards onto my carbon speed machine and get some kip.

The Plan

LEL has 2 options. Complete the 900 miles in 100 hours or 116hours, which given a Sunday start, means finishing on Thursday or Friday.  Any thoughts of a relaxing ride were dashed when I realised that to get the family holiday that we wanted, I’d need to be back home for Friday, so a 100 hours it is.

On my long rides I’m usually fast enough that I should be okay but my longest ride was ‘only 300’ miles I had no idea of if I would be able to maintain that pace.

My equation was 60 hours on the bike at 15 mph which would allow for 40 hours for eating, sleeping & faffing.  If you say it quickly it sounds straightforward.  There was one even bigger challenge though – I couldn’t ‘break’ myself.  I needed to be in a fit state to go on holiday and be a active parent…

With a 7am start time (& 11am Thursday finish time), I wanted to get the 250 ‘flatish’ miles to Thirsk on Day 1, the next 200 ‘hilly’ miles to Edinburgh on Day 2 and then have 2 1/2 days to crawl back to London.  I had train home booked for 3pm Thursday, that I couldn’t miss.  My thinking was that where ever I woke up on Thursday morning, I should have time to get a train to Kings Cross by 3pm.

To incentivise myself to get to Thirsk and to guarantee a good night’s sleep,  I booked a Premier Inn.(I might be too soft for Audaxing…).  Getting home to Edinburgh on Monday night would be my next goal.

Day 1 : Loughton to Thirsk

Waking early, I have some porridge in my room and then set off for the 6 miles to the start.  Having thought London was flat, it was a bit of a surprise to have to use granny gear to climb Motts Lane. After a nice descent,  it was even more of a surprise to find myself back at the bottom of Motts Lane where I started from.  Back into granny gear and this time on a mission to get to the start before my start time.

I made it with 5 minutes to spare but with a tough choice to be made.  Get some (more) breakfast and start with the next group in 15 minutes or just go for it.  I decided I would be ruing my error for the whole day if waited and so I got into the starting and got ready to start.

 

And we were off…

Stage 1: Loughton to St Ives: 62 Miles 19.3mph

All the preparation and training had come down to the simple task of turning the pedals.

Heading away from the school, the bike next to mine is making a strange grating noise from rubbing mudguards. A rider quips that it will get annoying, and almost immediately the noise changes into a grinding noise followed by air escaping in a hurry.  Someone’s ride had started badly.

Our group soon whittled down to around 10-15 riders being pulled along by a strong Luxembourg rider. His pal settled into the group and when I chatted to him he said his friend was having a good year and he was going to ride his own pace – if anyone wanted to follow him he was fine with it.  The only problem was he didn’t have the best navigation.  A couple of times he missed a turn and we’d have a shout from someone paying attention, leading to riders heading in all directions to avoid hitting each other.  Slowly we get back on the track and the frenetic pace resumes.

I do a short turn on the front but all too quickly someone is disappointed with my pace and comes past.  It’s the first time I’ve ridden alongside people on aero bars.  If you see the person on the front lean forward onto their bars, you know it’s about to become hard work to keep up…

I’m starting to get hungry and eat all my emergency food.  I foolishly packed my Soreen loafs and flapjacks into the Drop Bags and have very little with me.  I push on to keep with the group and hope can get to St Ives before I bonk.

Arriving in St Ives a local rider sprints off down a backstreet.  I take a chance and follow him, which causes consternation in the group who don’t know whether to follow or stick to the formal route.  The shortcut pays off and we avoid several traffic lights and get to the control ahead of the group, and I quickly head for food.

 

Stage 2 : St Ives to Spalding 38miles 17.9mph

I see some fellow riders start to head to the exit so I join them and realise my rookie mistake.  I haven’t filled my waterbottles, doing delays me and I leave in a tizz trying to find a group to work with.  Just out of town I miss a turn, thankfully I get a shout so stop and try to work out what I had done wrong with my garmin.  The weaker of the 2 Luxembourgers stop with me.  I figure out we should have turn but have now lost the few riders we were with.

I feel responsible so do a massive turn on the front to pull the 2 of us back onto the wheel a stronger rider.  We make it but salvation is short as the faster rider see a bigger/stronger group ahead and wants to chase.  We try our best to keep up but it is in vain and even the 2 of us soon part company as he stops for a break.  I stop in Crowland to photograph the 3way bridge and ride solo into Spalding and another meal.

 

Stage 3 Spalding to Louth 51miles 17.8 mph

Having filled my bottles when we arrived, I’m ready to leave when a small group head to the door.  Having survived the many traffic lights of Spalding, we’re soon out into fens again.  The group works well and we are cracking along nicely.

At one point I notice the Japanese rider’s light has slipped and is gently banging into his spokes – nothing too serious but worth sorting before too long.  I mention this to him as we are cracking along.  His reaction is to slam on his brakes and sort it.  I feel bad that he’ll likely lose the group as getting back on a fast moving group on his own is remote.  Fortunately for him, we have to shortly have to stop at some lights and he is able to rejoin.  I am much relieved.

The rhythm is only broken up by a thunderstorm and a sharp hill outside of Louth, which was quickly followed by a murderously close and fast pass from an oncoming pickup truck on a single track road. He could see us clearly but seem to take delight from forcing us off the road.  A great ‘Welcome to England’ for our overseas visitors.

 

Stage 4 : Louth to Pocklington 60 Miles 16.0 mph

We reform the same group on leaving Louth, but there is lots hanging around while various people deal with drop bags and other faffing.  I bit frustrating but should be worth it if we stick together.

Leaving Louth is still hilly and the heavens open.  One hill is awash with so much running water all across the road it’s impossible to keep dry.  Following the rider in front means a face full of spray from their wheel, but taking a different line will mean deeper surface water, so I ride off the front of the group in the hope of taking my own line will keep me dryer.  It didn’t work – I was soaked.

The hills were an unexpected part of Lincolnshire. As we crest each one, we’d scan the horizon for the towers of the Humber bridge but we were disappointed repeatedly.  After what seems like an age it eventually appears in front of us and after another wrong turn we arrive at the ramp for the obligatory photograph.

The group stays together ticking off the miles as the evening draws in.  Approaching Pocklington, thoughts turn to where people are sleeping.  Many seem keen to keep going through the night until they are ‘properly’ tired, so were going to stop long enough to eat and sort themselves out for a long night ahead.  Knowing I would stop at Thirsk I was keen for a quick stop at Pocklington and making the most of the remaining daylight.  I secure agreement from Lawrence that we would be stick together..

Stage 5 : Pocklington to Thirsk  43 miles 14.8 mph

After a quick pot of pasta, we set off together and discovered a slight issue.  I hadn’t managed to get my Garmin to light up at night (to be honest I hadn’t tried that hard) and Lawrence only had directions on his phone as was saving his battery.  No worries… I had printed out the route sheet, which I could read using my front light.

The route took us down some tiny roads in the increasing darkness, which gave us chance to check our lights were good enough.  If anything my lights were too good and the piece of paper just in front of them was too bright to read, but it seemed to be working and before long we amongst the Howardian Hills.  A series of leg sapping inclines past huge monuments to finish the day, but chatting away in the darkness they soon pass and we start to dream of the bright lights of Thirsk.

We get slightly worried when crossroad after 6km doesn’t appear and we wonder where we have gone wrong.  Without stopping I try to check the route sheet and see it is actually 16km so we plough on and after a while we reach a T junction!!  Panic sets in as we realise we are off route – there was a left turn after 3km that we missed.  Looking around we see that the road left is the main A170 signposted to Thirsk, so we take it hoping we didn’t add too many miles by our error.

Traffic is light and we at soon back in our rhythm chatting away in the darkness. We start to see warning signs for Sutton Bank, a 25% descent into Thirsk that is notorious for caravans getting stuck on.  I’d driven  up it the last summer so knew it was quite a climb, but we were going to descend it so all was good and we start to count down the milestones to Thirsk.

After a couple of miles we realise that we have been climbing and we see a car pass us and continue to climb for a long way until it goes out of sight.  We don’t have a choice, we are on the road to the Thirsk, we don’t know another route, we just have to push on and hope the top comes soon.  7 Miles and 750ft of climbing later we crest the top and squeeze on the brakes to keep in control on the way down.

We crawl into Thirsk at Midnight and head for some food, where the riders we left behind in Pocklington are eating again.  I try not to be despondent, it could have been much worse.  I’d made my day 1 objective and was generally feeling okay, a little saddle sore (mainly because in all the Day1 excitement I forgot to reapply Chamois cream, D’oh), but on the whole happy with my lot, especially when I climb into my Premier Inn bed for some sleep.

Day’s Total : 265miles

Day 2 : Thirsk to Edinburgh

Stage 6: Thirsk to Barnard Castle 42miles 15.2mph.

I awake before my alarm having had 5 hours sleep in a luxurious bed and think of getting back on the road.  Any thoughts of a quick get away are thwarted by my poor attempts at re-tieng my drop bag which I’ve filled with too much stuff and I waste a good 15 minutes in befuddle daze before I give up and head back to the control for some food.

The control is quiet and I head out alone in the morning sun.  There are a few riders but not at my speed.  I pass one, only to miss a turn and have to overtake her again, slightly embarrassed the 2nd time.  I really shouldn’t have turned the beeps off on my Garmin.

Pretty uneventful leg and before long I’m crossing the Tees and heading into Barnard Castle Control, my mind clearly on the climb of Yad Moss ahead.

Stage 7: Barnard Castle to Brampton 52miles 13.5mph

Now on familiar roads I head out of the Control and into a cross/headwind as we climb the long long climb of Yad Moss.  There’s not many riders around and I’m happy enough with my pace, which I’m managing by watching my HR and keeping at a steady number.  I try not be put off by being overtaken and know that we still have a long day ahead of ourselves.

I pass the time on the 90 minute climb (1,200ft over 14miles) by counting the snow poles and guessing how many I’ll pass before the top. My first guess is 70, but I get to 199 before I finally crest the summit and head down to the cobbles of Alston and on to Brampton.

Stage 8: Brampton to Moffat 47 miles 15.6 mph

A head out alone and thankfully my pride stays in tack as I get onto the Scottish loop before the first Southbound riders passes me.  I stop at the border for another obligatory photo which I ask some German tourists to take.  They can’t quite believe how far I had come, and to be honest neither could I.

Mostly I was alone on this leg but on familiar territory I didn’t mind too much. There wasn’t much for it but to get my head down and crank out the miles.  Moffat control was a welcome relief to the boredom from the B7076.

Sitting down on the low bench to take off my shoes was a challenge.  My lower back was very sore and gave me some concern, but I was focussed on getting to Edinburgh for the night, ideally before nightfall…

Stage 9 : Moffat to Edinburgh 50 Miles 15.2 mph

Back on the road at straightaway up onto the Devil’s Beeftub, a 6 miles climb up the side of the valley with a very steady gradient.  It’s a lovely climb, if that is possible, picking a gear and a steady HR you just tap out the revolutions required until the crest appears and then you have a long long descent into the Tweed valley.

The evening sun was interspersed by some rain showers and rainbows and I was happy enough to ride on my own on familiar roads, knowing I’d soon be back in Edinburgh. There were only a couple of other riders on the road and I up the pace to chase down their red lights only to be disappointed that their speed isn’t compatible to mine.

One red light stubbornly refused to get any closer but the chase keeps me amused as we reach the outskirts, where I chanced across a friend on their motorbike just as I made the catch. We exchange greetings as best you can at 18mph. I wasn’t for slowing until I had got to the control and I had been fixated on getting there for 10pm, doing repeated equations of the average speed required to make it.  The meeting bursts my LEL bubble a little – a reminder of a life outside of cycling and eating…

The excellent Loanhead railway path was a breeze and we sail through the city’s outskirts with ease and are soon at the Control a couple of minutes before 10pm   (I find out later the Edinburgh controller had arranged for the many chicanes to be removed – thanks Martin).

Another familiar face is on duty outside the control and we chat as I lock up the bike for the night.  Taking my shoes off now becomes a major issue, I struggle to bend and my lower back is in agony.  Getting into a taxi becomes my biggest challenge of the day.

The Taxi driver can’t comprehend 450mile/ 39 hour journey from London and even more amazed, having seen the state of me, that I was planning to get on my bike in the morning to repeat the journey south…

Day 3 : Edinburgh to Thirsk

Stage 10 : Edinburgh to Innerleithen 27miles 12.2mph

6 hours sleep in a comfortable bed leads to my first epiphany of the day. Realising that situations like my sore back was exactly why I had been carrying ibuprofen with me. The mental boost of having a ‘plan’ to keep going gets me going again and I return to the control for breakfast.

I know I’ll have a long day of hills ahead of me but LEL was never going to be easy, so I head out into the rain and head South.  The early morning traffic seems incongruous to the past 2 days, which mainly avoided any busy roads, but soon we are on the quite roads heading for the Granites.  The Granites is another lovely climb on a wide road, steady gradients and fine views over Edinburgh.  The only problem is that the climb to the ‘start’ of the climb is same height as the climb itself but made up of fiddly little inclines on windy roads that I couldn’t get into a rhythm for.  I try not to get disappointed with my slow progress…

With no other riders around, the climbs pass slowly, but eventually, I get to Innerleithen and a chance for 2nd Breakfast.  I chat with, Ulli, one of the volunteers I know and complain of my sore back, which I put down to lowering my stem a month before to try to get a more comfortable position on my saddle.  My 2nd Epiphany comes when she asks if I can change my position back.  I wouldn’t do anything rash but give it some thought…

Stage 11 : Innerleithen to Eskdalemuir 31 Miles 12.5 mph

The climb out of Innerleithen (Paddy Slacks) was the scene of my first ever sportive in 2013, which was a infamous for the biblical rain and despite puncturing twice (with only one spare tube) I thoroughly enjoyed.  Reminiscing helped the miles pass and whilst there were some other riders about, I was happy to go my own pace on the hills.

The peace allowed my to consider my options for riding positions.  My back was still giving me gyp and I doubted I would finish if I carried on without changing something – I would certainly fail the ‘don’t break myself’ test. But, if I changed the stem, the risk was that I’d not have a comfortable saddle.  A comment from Astronaut Chris Hadfield came to mind – In a crisis work out “what’s the next thing that’s going to kill us’.  To me the next thing that would stop my ride was my back – I had to tackle it.  I’d deal with any saddle issues if & when they arose.

At Eskdalemuir, I head to the mechanic’s stand and it’s fairly painless to return my stem to its previous height.

Stage 12 Eskdalemuir to Brampton : 35miles 14.1mph

To be continued….

 

LEL2017 : How far can you go…

Minister – What’s stopping you?

Roseburn_002Humza Yousef has set up an Active Travel Task Force to work out what are the barriers to getting Cycling and Walking improvements built. So far, they have had one meeting and have now asked for public evidence.

http://www.transport.gov.scot/environment/active-travel-task-force

So here are my views gained from the experience of the proposed East-West City Centre route in Edinburgh, which was met with strong opposition in the Roseburn section. I was part of a group that supported the route and witnessed how the opposition had been mustered around misinformation and stoking fears of any change to the status quo, although nobody was satisfied with the status quo and the local community council had once put out its own wish list for changes to the infrastructure.

From that experience I would say that the very real barriers to implementing high quality walking and cycling projects are:

– Insufficient funding from central government

– Insufficient political buy in to changing the status quo

– Insufficient linkages to the wider benefits to health and quality of life

– Information void which can be filled by those fighting against the schemes

Insufficient Funding from central government

Funding for Active Travel at less than 2% of the Transport budget will not create a modal shift any time soon. To get people out of their cars, we need a network of routes going where people want to travel. A route is only as good as its weakest link and the key is a network rather than singular routes. It’s also hard to show the model shift a network can generate by only building one route, which makes winning over doubters very difficult.

Edinburgh Council has committed 10% of its transport budget to active travel, which is excellent, and starting to show rewards but deeper pockets are needed to make real change.

The Community Links Plus scheme does encourage high quality bids, but with only 1 scheme winning each year progress will be very slow and many councils will not want to spend the effort to develop a bid without certainty of success.

It’s an additional hurdle for active travel that doesn’t exist for other transport infrastructure, which indicates its poor position in the Government’s pecking order for investment. Where’s the competition for the next bridge, bypass or dual carriageway?

A more significant and guaranteed investment level would encourage local authorities to plan networks and build up the expertise to deliver high quality infrastructure. It would also send a clear message that the Government was taking Active Travel seriously.

Insufficient Political Buy-In

Whilst there are some supporters on Active Travel schemes within the political parties, it is far from widespread. There is a wide disconnect between national party policies, which all support more active travel, and on the ground support by local councillors. I understand local councillors fearing making an unpopular decision, however the vast majority (72%) think things would be better if people cycled more. What is less understood by many, is how you do this.

The politicians need to understand what works for increasing active travel and what doesn’t and be confident in taking a position for positive change. More information would help them, but they have to want to read and understand it. More importantly there has to be an acceptance that real change won’t be made by attempting to satisfy everyone by compromising designs too far.  There are people who won’t be happy unless they can drive/park everywhere regardless of the impacts on others but thankfully these are a minority.  For years we have had poor infrastructure built for fear of upsetting people through roadspace reallocation.

By the final decision for Roseburn, all parties supported Option A, which shows that political consensus can be found but that was a hard fought battle and took a lot of efforts both inside and outside of the Council to ensure the implications were fully understood and the right decision made.

Insufficient linkages to wider benefits

There are great societal benefits to having a more active population, but this isn’t at the forefront of the debate on Active Travel schemes. The costs to the Health Service from Obesity, Inactivity and Pollution related illnesses is huge, not to mention premature deaths and poor quality of life from sufferers. The Health Service should be putting money & support into active travel, like it has done with schemes for stopping smoking.

Lessening the impacts that motor vehicles have on our streets can make a big differences to our communities. For instance, the streets should be a natural playing and hanging out space for youngsters. Too many children spend their life indoors before being ferried to school or friends or activity by car.

The debate needs to be widened out into how much we can all benefit from more people taking active travel and away for cycle infrastructure just being for current cyclists.

Information Void

What Roseburn has shown us is how easy it is for individuals opposed to the scheme to whip up a furore on an Active Travel Scheme based on misinformation. Reallocating roadspace away from the status quo will be a shock to some people who have been used to our car-centric society, but with solid information the issues can be fully understood and doubters convinced. It was apparent in Roseburn that whilst everyone was concerned with the current high levels of pollution and the viability of the local shops, there wasn’t a clear view on the future for Roseburn. At the heated public meeting, we had arguments against the scheme coming from people who wanted wider pavements, more loading, more parking, bus priority and faster car traffic flows. Clearly these couldn’t all succeed at the same time and an informed debate on what we do with our roadspace is needed. The best way to achieve this is to base the discussions on evidence rather than misinformation or unsubstantiated opinions.

There should be more done centrally to set out the arguments for active travel so the debate is had once rather than on every scheme across the country, with evidence of the experience from other European cities eg Munich, Copenhagen, Seville.

With Roseburn, Council Officers and supporters were having to break new ground to convince the doubters of the benefits and even then most positive examples were dismissed by opponents in the belief that Roseburn is too different for valid comparisons.

Roseburn Cycle Group

Minister – What’s stopping you?

Ride the Route – 29th Aug 8am

Roseburn%20Bikes

 

The Edinburgh East-West City Centre Cycle route goes to the Transport & Environment Committee (TEC) on Tuesday 30th August.

The proposals would give a safe route through the City and encourage many to switch to a healthy, pollution free method of transport.

To ensure that the importance of these proposals is understood, we are inviting members of the TEC, local Cllrs and press to join us in ‘Riding the Route’ on Monday 29th August.

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We’ll gather on the West side of Charlotte Square at 7.45am and ride (walking is allowed & bikes can be provided) to Roseburn.

If you want to show your support for the scheme, please ‘Ride the Route’ on Monday as well and tweet/blog/Facebook your experience – please use #OptionA. Here’s our Facebook Event if you want to tell us you’re coming or want to invite your friends.

A group will be setting off from Charlotte Square at 8am and following the route to Roseburn. Please join this if you can or make your own way in your own time.

If you see the front group (including my stripey tandem) give us a wave and a ding ding as you pass.

Please make sure you show your support for the best Option in Roseburn, Option A which gives a safe, direct route.

In the mean time please contact your Councillors and make sure they know your views.

 

More information about the proposals and their importance can be found on the Roseburn Cycle Route Website

The council’s paper to the Transport & Environment Committee is here

Ride the Route – 29th Aug 8am

Conviction needed…

It’s crunch time in Edinburgh…

The proposed East-West city centre cycling route is coming to the City’s Transport & Environment Committee at the end of the month and our councillors will be answering key questions for the future of our city.

What options are we giving our residents to make healthy transport choices and what legacy are we leaving for the next generation?

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Corstorphine / Roseburn feeder ride to Pedal on Parliament 2016

The proposed cycle route through the heart of our city from East to West would link places where people live to where they work. The dormitory suburbs and business parks in the West are already served by Quiet routes and work okay for most people, but they stop at Roseburn and then you’re on your own as my friend who wanted to get back to cycle commuting found out…

Edinburgh needs people like her to cycle and it needs people not to have to be ‘brave’ to get on their bikes if there is any hope of us making inroads into the growing issues of pollution, congestion and inactivity.

And these issues really do matter. Both to us and future generations.

Air pollution is growing as a cause of premature death, with an estimated 2,000 people across Scotland dying every year. That’s over 200 in Edinburgh, which has the most polluted street in Scotland – not something we should be proud of. The kicker is that those lower to the ground get it worse as ITV news found out, impacting children the most.

Congestion is already bad in Edinburgh despite 43% of households not having access to a car and our population is set to increase.

We simply don’t have space for everybody’s private car to drive and park in our city centre at rush hour. With an average of 1.2 people on board it is a hugely inefficient use of space.

 

Inactivity has serious health consequences affecting quality of life and causing a further 2,500 premature deaths in Scotland each year.  And dealing with this inactivity is costing us a massive amount.

 

Active Travel could make a significant impact on these issues. It’s pollution free, healthy and space efficient. It’s working in London and it could work here. 50% of journeys to work or study are less than 3 miles or 15 minutes by bike so it could easily be fitted into busy lives but people will only do it if it is safe and convenient. The more people see others riding a bike the more likely they are to try it themselves.

Edinburgh Council have recognised the issues and solutions and developed a Transport 2030 Vision :- “By 2030, Edinburgh’s transport system will be one of the greenest, healthiest and most accessible in northern Europe” which included 15% of commutes by bike in 2020. The Council have backed up these words with an escalating investment in cycling, rising 1% a year to 9% of the Transport budget in 2016/2017.

The City Centre East-West route is a critical step in this vision to improve walking and cycling, but this is where it starts to get tough. The scheme received overwhelming support (66%) at its consultation but a vociferous campaign was lauched against the scheme, especially its impact on the shops in Roseburn. This campaign is now testing the mettle of our elected councillors.

The opponents to the scheme held a public meeting last week which 9 councillors  and around 175 members of the public attended. The council officer tried to explain the scheme and its benefits to the meeting, and what they had done to alleviate the concerns raised in the consultation earlier this year.

The atmosphere was hostile from the start, with the council officer being heckled and any failing to recall minute details taken as incompetence by the council. The audience raised a full house of Cycling fallacies.

What followed was an attack on the plans and a counter presentation of the ‘Roseburn Vision’ by the chief protagonist.

His pitch was filled with speculation and very light on actual evidence. I could write at length on the untruths and exaggerations put forward but they are almost too many to mention. The highlight was his admission that he was encouraging consultation fraud through using false addresses on another of his campaigns, whilst challenging this schemes consultation’s validity based on addresses and expecting credibility for a consultation on his Roseburn Vision.

There are legitimate concerns about the impact on the local shops and it is only right to address them. A group of local residents aghast at the hysteria and misrepresentations of the opposition have looked to address them with evidence on their website they set up in May.

These supporters of the Roseburn Cycle Route called for the debate to move to evidence based discussions. We cited multiple studies where cycle paths have been a positive change for local shops and called for any evidence for or against that we have missed.  We haven’t been sent any that show a new cycle route harming local businesses and couldn’t find any ourselves.

Yes, every set up is different, but not that different. Edinburgh is tackling the same issues as other cities and there are other cities that have colder, wetter, hillier and narrower streets than Edinburgh. There are shops that thrive in pedestrian areas with difficult loading arrangements, but that’s not what we’re talking about in Roseburn. The revised plans still has peak and off-peak loading with less than a quarter of spaces being removed on Roseburn Terrace, but it should be stressed that these are intended for the loading and unloading of heavy or bulky items.  That’s not always what they are currently being used for though with the bays often blocked by parked cars as this series of tweets shows

Are we really prioritising illegal parking over sustainable travel?

There were also concerns about floating bus stops and the potential for harm to elderly pedestrians from people passing on bikes, which we were told could result in ‘doing their hip in and being the end of them’.

The biggest risk at a bus stop comes from the passing motor traffic. Two Edinburgh bus-stop have been demolished by buses in the last year, fortunately without injury.

There are plenty more considered responses to concerns on the Roseburn website.

The opposition does not want rational arguments. They want the scheme stopped and the money spent on fixing potholes. Fixing potholes is probably the one thing we all agree on, but it’s a short term fix and does nothing to change transport habits.

There are now two options for the councillors to decide between, Option A and Option B. For investment that will make a fundamental difference to Edinburgh the councillors have to choose Option A with the straightforward route along the shops and only 1 road crossing. There is a danger that they bow to pressure and go for the Option B compromise, which has many shortcomings compared to Option A. Using it by bike will be convoluted & slow as you wait for 3 separate road crossings. The likely outcome is that many may never be attracted to cycling and of those that do a significant number will ignore the route and stick to the road, something that they are perfectly entitled to do but which will wind up other road users and send mixed messages to potential new cyclists. Option B also narrows the key junction of Russell Road with Roseburn Terrace and Roseburn Street which won’t go down well with those wanting throughput of cars to be top priority.

It is all going to come down to the Transport & Environment Committee meeting on the 30th August.  Will they have the conviction to see through the building of a safe, direct and compelling cycle route, take a compromise option the suits nobody or even kick the can down the road?

Let’s learn from London, who took the less controversial options and have now had to go back and put in high quality segregated cycle routes. These are  now reaping the rewards. When Boris Johnson left the Mayor’s office he said “Exactly three years ago, I unveiled my vision to make cycling in London safer, more popular and more normal. My single biggest regret as Mayor is that I did not do it sooner.”

I can’t see how anyone watching the above video or reading the Human Streets statements by Boris Johnson and Andrew Gilligan cannot see that it is doing it right that gets the benefit.

Human streets document available here.

My recommendation to our councillors is to study the evidence and recommendations from the cycling officers and  build Option A and watch the positive changes it will bring to our city and its residents.

If you want to help Edinburgh take the right choice, please do contact your local councillors and let them know your thoughts.

Conviction needed…

Will the car always win?

My first foray into campaigning was getting a narrow country road near my work resurfaced and have cycle lanes added and innovatively no centre line.  This has made a huge improvement to the many colleagues who regularly use that route and we’re now seeing much greater number choosing to cycle to work.

BUT, the victory looks to be short lived as the Council are scheduled to give planning permission in principle to build 1,300 houses with the only access point being onto ‘our’ road.

The Bicycle User Group at work submitted a strongly argued case that this access arrangement was unsuitable in it’s current form.  Full Details

They also made a deputation at the planning Sub-Committee last week where it approved the plans but decided against putting any conditions on the developer to sort out the transport issues associated with the site despite the Council Officers noting “The transport mitigation measures proposed by the developer fall significantly short of the measures identified in the Council’s East of Millburn Tower Transport Appraisal of January 2015“.

So here’s the BUG’s final plea to all Councillors to add planning conditions in the approval

I write on behalf of the Gogarburn Bicycle Users’ Group, which represents nearly 600 people who ride their bikes to RBS Gogarburn. We are concerned about the impact of the proposed development at Milburn Tower on the safety of cyclists on Gogar Station Road, and ask that during your deliberations on this development on 2 June, you impose planning conditions to maintain a safe commuting route for cyclists.

What’s so special about Gogar Station Road?
It’s a narrow country lane linking the A8 at RBS Gogarburn and the A71 at Hermiston Park & Ride. It’s vital for active travel and cycle commuters because it has a connection to the Union Canal tow-path and a link (via underpass) to Edinburgh Park. This makes it a popular route for people commuting by bicycle. During resurfacing in 2015, an innovative solution of removing the centre line and creating on-road cycle lanes vastly improved conditions for cyclists on this route.

However, Gogar Station Road is still very narrow. In some places it is barely 5m wide. There is one single-lane bridge over the Gogar Burn that has no pavements at all, and a single-lane railway bridge that has pavements that are too narrow for a buggy or wheelchair. Even at current levels of traffic, it is not a pleasant place for pedestrians and cyclists.

What are the Bicycle Users’ Group concerned about?
We are worried about two aspects of this development:

  1. Construction Traffic. Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) present a particular danger for cyclists: over 20% of cyclist fatalities in 2014 involved an HGV. About one quarter of accidents resulting in serious injury to a cyclist in 2014 involved an HGV passing too close to the rider. A tipper truck is over 3m wide: some parts of Gogar Station Road are too narrow for two such trucks to pass, and if a truck tried to overtake a cyclist on a narrow part of the road there would only be 50cm space between the cyclist and the truck. We are, frankly, terrified about the prospect of sharing this narrow country road with construction traffic, but there are no alternative routes for cyclists from the canal (National Cycle Route 75) to RBS Gogarburn. The attached picture shows a truck on Gogar Station Road.
  2. ATT00001Residential Traffic. When the development is occupied, traffic volumes will increase considerably. At peak times there will be a vehicle passing every four seconds. This will make Gogar Station Road unpleasant for cyclists, and will reduce its current effectiveness as a key north-south cycle route. As traffic volumes increase, the opportunities to overtake slow-moving cyclists decrease, increasing the risk that frustrated drivers make poor overtaking decisions on a narrow road with poor sight lines and blind bends. That will put vulnerable cyclists at risk.

What do the Bicycle Users’ Group want done?
We would urge you to impose two planning conditions on this development, to mitigate the risk to cyclists and maintain the levels of active travel that the current infrastructure on Gogar Station Road has done so much to promote.

  • Planning condition 1: minimise construction traffic using Gogar Station Road. To protect cyclists and pedestrians using Gogar Station Road (and particularly its narrow bridges towards the south), all construction traffic must enter and leave the development at its north end (near RBS), and must take the shortest route to the A8. No construction traffic should be allowed to travel along Gogar Station Road to or from the A71.
  • Planning condition 2: creation of a direct ‘commuter’ cycle route through the development. The developer must consult with Sustrans and Spokes to design a direct, segregated, cycle route through the development for commuter cyclists. The route will go from the canal (National Cycle Route 75), past the underpass to Edinburgh Park and then on to RBS Gogarburn where it will link to the existing traffic-free cycle paths to the Airport. This will provide an attractive alternative to Gogar Station Road.

We would be very grateful for your support in imposing these conditions on the development.

RBS Gogarburn Bicycle Users’ Group

(Gogarburn Bicycle Users’ Group is independent of RBS)

 

 

And it’s not just us arguing that the Council are giving the developers too easy a ride on transport issues.

Here’s Spokes & Living Streets adding their concerns.

 

 

 

 

 

Will the car always win?

All Politics is Local

I’ve been engaging with my local Holyrood Candidates to understand (& hopefully influence) their views on Active Travel.  A subject very close to my heart as a father of 2 & fearing the future we are leaving them, with pollution, congestion & obesity only getting worse in our car-centric society.

To be honest, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by them.  They get that our constituency (Edinburgh Western) has the most polluted street in Scotland, St John’s Road (& Queensferry Road as 7th worse).

I’ll apologise to my Labour Candidate, Cat Headley for omitting her from the rest of this blog on the basis of brevity for readers, and concentrate on Alex-Cole Hamilton, LibDem & Toni Giugliano, SNP who are locked in a tight battle to be our Consitituency MSP.

They have both put out some good plans to tackle our transport issues

Alex (Libdem) & Toni (SNP)

They also joined me on a tour of local Infrastructure

And came to Pedal on Parliament

They also fully signed up to WalkCycleVote’s 3 asks

  • Investment: Provide sustained, long term investment in both cycling and walking, reaching 10% of the transport budget.
  • Infrastructure: Build and maintain dedicated cycling infrastructure, enabling people aged 8-80 to cycle.
  • Safety: Promote and deliver safer roads for both walking and cycling.

 

So, how to choose between them?

We could look at their Party’s manifestos as studied by Spokes, which has the LibDems as more positive on Active Travel. But as the title of the Blog indicates, politics are local…

For us it’s all about the proposed Roseburn to Leith Walk cycle path proposed by our Labour/SNP coalition led council to revolutionise crossing Edinburgh from East to West by bike, which I’ve previously blogged about.  If built as designed, will give a compelling alternative to polluting transport options and help residents of West Edinburgh to fit exercise into busy lives by starting cycle commuting.

Unfortunately, there has been some negativity to the scheme, with local shopkeepers worried it will impact their trade and a local resident stoking up concern amongst the community based on misinformation. I recognise their concern, and think it can be eased by looking at the evidence of other bike lanes that have been installed. There is significany support in the community for cycle infrastructure – This is the local Pedal on Parliament feeder ride, where locals have up their Saturday to protest for better cycle facilities.

 

And there was the recent Edinburgh BikeLife survey which found 74% wanted my spent on cycle infrastructure & 23% not currently cycling would start cycle with safety quoted as the biggest barrier.

 

Making it more interesting is the fact that the Cyclepath is outside our Constituency in Edinburgh Central and will ultimately be approved or not, by the local Councillors & not our Holyrood candidates.

Whilst we desperately need central government funding to make a modal shift toward cycling, this route is our chance to get a huge step up in cycling in Edinburgh Western as whilst we have some safe quiet routes (which can be convoluted) to get us to Roseburn, we then have no safe route into or across the city centre.  If this proposal doesn’t happen or is compromised into worthlessness, then we will have missed our chance and we’ll be stuck with the same issues we currently have. It’s that important to us.

You would have hoped that we would have consistency within the parties, so we know what we are voting for.

Starting with the Lib Dems

Alex signed a supporting petition I set up for the scheme – good start.

Unfortunately, it starts to go wrong with the local campaigning litrature

The LibDem Edin Central Candidate, recently sent this out

and clarified it with

 

This minor route diversion was one put forward by local LibDem Cllr Paul Edie, which would see the route sent round the back of the shopping street, across a couple of streets and then down an alley behind Tesco before appearing back on the main road, between high walls as you cross the pavement. How is building in pedestrian/cycle conflict and being sent on a convoluted route, going to be compelling to get new people on their bike?

 

Cllr Edie also fed into the consultation that the proposed 2.5m wide bi-directional cycle lane would be ‘very wide’, which is just ridiculous.

 

And so to the SNP.

Toni, declined to sign the pro petition saying it wasn’t in his constituency, although he was able to opine on dualling the A9

and the Edinburgh Central candidate, Alison Dickie very much sat on the fence with it, recommending further consideration

“My initial thoughts on the Roseburn to Leith Walk cycle route are that, although I very much welcome safer routes to encourage more cyclists, there are some genuine concerns from others to be considered. And, of course, the ideal would be to find a solution that is fair to all.”

But slightly more concerning is the views of Frank Ross, who is the local Councillor & leader of the SNP party in Edinburgh Council. Frank was one of the early signatories to the petition against scheme, so not a good start.

Since then, to give him credit, he has continued to engage with those supporting the scheme on twitter, and whilst he says he isn’t anti-cycling, some of his exchanges generalising about ‘cyclists’ have led to some people doubting this and turning away from the SNP.

“I have recently lent my vote to the SNP but that’s it, he’s done it for me. I’ll be finding other homes for my votes in May. “

“After 4 years of road building and Cllr Ross’s inability to see past his bonnet I think the SNP group can forget any vote from me this time round.”

Coming back to Labour for a moment, the support has been more universal, and they seem rightly pr1oud of the 10% of local transport budget they & the SNP have committed which is bringing about local improvements  such as the Roseburn-Leith proposal.

& of course the Green party is head and shoulders above the other parties when it comes to commitment to national funding for active travel with 10%, vs 2-3% for the others.

So in summary, whilst the Active Travel vote in Edinburgh Western could sway the election result, it’s hard to know whether the candidates’ support will ultimately bring us the change we want to see as the Parties are in at odds within themselves.

I’d love for either of them to be clear on what a vote for them & their party will mean for Roseburn-Leith, so we can be clear that they are worthy of it.

So Toni & Alex can you give us that clarity?

 

Here are my tweets asking for it. Do watch for their replies or join in the debate.

 

 

 

UPDATE:

Toni has responded but I don’t think he got the point…

 

 

All Politics is Local

#Schoolrunstories

 

**Update for 2017**- Nothing has changed with the route so I can just use the same Blog 😦

 

There’s a pop up campaign looking at how families commute to school by Active Travel. More detail are available be searching the #Schoolrunstories or on this Blog.

I thought we’d join in so here’s what our School Run is lik via a few tweets

 

 

#Schoolrunstories